Wednesday 3 September 2014

Response to Questions about Snowley Park/Glenfields Approval

A short while ago, I asked a number of questions of Fenland and Cambridgeshire County Council.  I have now had a joint response from them.  In a few days I will comment on that response - I have a number of issues with it - not least that it does not answer the question about the specific measures being taken to make Whittlesey more sustainable - but I will deal with them in a few days.  It needs top be read alongside my blog, which is here.


Blog Question 1
The following planning consents were factored into the highway modelling that was carried out as part of the Transport Assessment for this development:

•      460 homes at Bassenhally Field
•      Sainsbury Supermarket and country park
•      Business Park on Eastrea Road

The Old Nursery site along Peterborough Road was not included because at the time the Snowley Park application was submitted the old nursery site had not received planning permission and so did not meet the requirement specified in national guidance that development which has received planning permission but not yet built should be included within the highway modelling. Likewise the development to the rear of 148 Stonald Road did not have planning consent and so was not specifically included.  However, in addition to the specific sites listed, the highway modelling work also included an uplift of 5.2% on current traffic flows to reflect expected general background growth and traffic growth related to smaller developments not listed above.

Blog Question 2
Local Plan Policy LP3 relating to the spatial strategy and settlement hierarchy guides FDC’s perspective on this.  The overall strategy focuses the majority of growth in the places that have most services and facilities (e.g. the towns) and that therefore has better access.
Whittlesey has regular bus links into Peterborough during the daytime and there are some train services in the evening.    The Local Plan
including Policy LP3 was subject to an independent public inquiry, found sound and the document has since been adopted.

Turning specifically to transport matters, other than Wisbech and March, Whittlesey has a higher proportion of residents travelling by the sustainable modes of transport than anywhere else in Fenland (according to the 2011 Census). In the context of where to locate new development in Fenland Whittlesey is well placed to support new development.

It is also important to note that the County Council, working with partners including Fenland District Council, has developed a Market Town Transport Strategy (MTTS) for Whittlesey which was adopted in November 2012. The development of the MTTS was overseen and endorsed by a Member steering group and sets out actions that seek to address some of the existing transport shortcomings within the town, but also to plan ahead for future developments. The MTTS therefore seeks to address the transport needs for both existing and potential future residents, businesses and visitors to Whittlesey and therefore make the town more sustainable from a transport perspective.

Blog Question 3

As noted above, there is an adopted MTTS in place for Whittlesey. This  sets out a series of transport improvements which will help to improve the transport options to, from and within the town and help establish more sustainable travel patterns. The development of the MTTS was led by a local member steering group with representatives from County, District and Town Councillors and included consultation with the general public in order that relevant issues and schemes could be addressed and included in the strategy.  There is strong evidence through the strategy development process that the transport items are required.

The measures set out in the MTTS seek to address both existing transport needs and those related to future growth and therefore securing appropriate contributions from developers is important to delivering the MTTS.

Planning law is clear that developer contributions must be related to the development and fairly and reasonably related to it in scale and kind.  FDC and CCC therefore need to be mindful of this in securing contributions.  The planning and highway authority can only seek to mitigate development impacts and not require developers to go beyond this and make good other shortcomings.

The MTTS contribution secured for this development was calculated in a proportionate way based on the number of dwellings proposed at this development relative to the existing population. The total cost of schemes in the MTTS relevant to the development were then used to derive an appropriate level of contribution which is related to the scale of development proposed.

However, the MTTS also recognises the importance of improvements being made to the station and this too has been evidenced and endorsed through the development of that strategy.  A separate contribution of £85,000 has therefore been secured from this development towards these improvements.

Finally a Travel Plan has been secured which includes the provision of transport welcome packs and free bus tickets to new residents so that their travel habits can be influenced early on before other habits are established.  Travel planning is a key element within national transport planning guidance, which has been shown to be effective through a number of studies, and CCC therefore continue to promote Travel Plans through the development process.

Blog Question 4

The planning application documentation included a Planning Statement. Appendix 4 of the Planning Statement comprised a Draft S106 Unilateral Undertaking – Comprising the following:

a. 25% Affordable Housing delivered on site.
b. Education
c. Transport – Market Town Transport Strategy Contribution d. Travel Plan e. Public Open Space

The draft S106 set out the applicant’s intentions in terms of S106 contributions and was part of the planning documentation consulted upon.

This was part of the planning information on the Council’s website and therefore available to the public for comment.

In terms of transport specifically, and as noted earlier, the measures set out in the MTTS were consulted upon and endorsed by Members prior to the adoption of the document.

Blog Question 5

The Transport Assessment submitted with the application predicted that there will be an additional 40 2-way vehicle trips in the AM peak hour and 43 2-way vehicle trips in the PM peak hour along the section of Stonald Road heading towards the town centre. This equates to less than 1 additional vehicle per minute travelling along Stonald Road which is unlikely to be perceptible to most users of the road. However, the MTTS includes other measures which will improve the cycle route from Whittlesey town centre to Peterborough which the development’s MTTS contribution could go towards and help fund.

As such on balance CCC officers take the view that the modest increases in traffic that will result from this development along this section of Stonald Road are adequately mitigated by the contribution the development will make to the MTTS. Moreover as part of the development’s planning permission, the developer has agreed to implement a residential travel plan which will encourage residents in the development to travel using sustainable means, this will help to increase the presence of cycling within the town making the cycle routes more attractive and could also help to secure further cycle improvements if it can be demonstrated that the numbers of cyclists in the town is increasing.

Blog Question 6

Peterborough City Council were not consulted directly by the planning authority – this was not a requirement in this case. However it should be noted that Peterborough CC did not object to the principle and scale of development at Whittlesey during the recent local plan preparation stages.    It would be reasonable for the Council to assume that provided the Local Plan targets are not significantly breached and the proposal is generally in line with the adopted Local Plan, Peterborough City Council has no objection.

Blog Question 7

While the link from Stonald Road to the Millennium Bridge will be upgraded later this financial year, further discussions will be held with County Council Cycle Officers to discuss the possibility for further improvements to be made to the North Bank section of this cycle route.

Blog Question 8

The 1,000 housing target for Whittlesey is enforceable, though only under certain circumstances. The 1,000 target was established in the Local Plan using available evidence and through consultation with, amongst others, infrastructure providers such as Anglian Water, Environment Agency, the local highway authority etc.

If at some point in the future a planning application was received which would, if built out by 2031 with all other completions and permissions since 2011, significantly exceed the 1,000 target for Whittlesey then the proposal could be refused as a matter of principle. The argument for such a refusal would be around the fact that the Local Plan tested the evidence and found that it was ‘sound’ to permit 1,000 homes at Whittlesey in principle. It did not test (and hence did not find sound) a higher figure. To approve an application which breached 1,000 homes, therefore, might have implications on the overall infrastructure network at Whittlesey, a matter not tested via the Local Plan process.

However, before such a refusal, the Council would have to take into account wider matters, such as:
(a)    Is Fenland on track to deliver its overall 11,000 target 2011-31? If not, it could be argued that Whittlesey should take more to make up the

(b)    shortfall. If it was on track, this would add considerable weight to refusing applications at Whittlesey (because otherwise the overall 11,000  target could be breached)

(c)    Have the infrastructure providers objected to the planning application which would breach the 1,000 target? If not, there would appear little evidence to suggest that breaching 1,000 homes would be unacceptable on infrastructure grounds, and therefore would weaken considerably the argument of refusing the proposal as a matter of principle

(d) Has the applicant provided evidence to suggest that breaching the 1,000 target would have no material impact on infrastructure or on other matters (such as the impact on the Nene Washes European protected site, a matter which would need determining through the Habitat Regulations Assessment)?
If it has provided such evidence, this would again  weaken the case to refuse permission as a matter of principle.

Thus, the 1,000 target is an important element of the Local Plan, it is an enforceable target, but the Council would have to take in to account a wide range of matters rather than simply refusing in principle a proposal which breached the 1,000 target. As with all proposals, the Council would have to take into account the Local Plan as a whole, including but not exclusively the 1,000 target, before reaching a decision as to approve or refuse a proposal.

The impact of proposed abolition of translation services

I keep blogging about UKIP, but then they keep opening the doors.

The news that UKIP County Councillor Alan Lay wants to abolish all translation services, or make people pay for them is interesting.

It is a confusing article, not helped by the fact that after 16 months as a County Councillor Councillor Lay still doesn't know how the council works. Firstly, there is no council meeting on 18th September. Secondly, he has subimitted his comments as a written question, when it does not contain a question at all and, as a result it has been refused. It may yet get resubmitted in a different way, but I doubt it. The crux of this is the on.y text I have is what is in the article - but the crux of it is clearly that we should cease to provide any free translation services.
Of course, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need translation services. But then, in a perfect world:

  • We wouldn’t have to produce leaflets and posters to explain where to turn if you are a victim of domestic abuse
  • We wouldn’t have to put social workers in front of victims of domestic abuse and explain to them that they risk having their child taken away if they stay in their relationship
  • We wouldn’t have to bring in social workers to talk to a child who has disclosed to a teacher that he is being abused at home
  • Our social workers would never have to liaise with their equivalents in foreign countries about social work cases (and that includes us liaising with overseas agencies about British families living abroad)
  • We wouldn’t have to employ staff who have to detain people under the mental health act and explain to their loved ones why that detention is necessary.
(Note: I have had this list double-checked and they are all areas where the County Council would provide translation services if the council staff involved do not have the language skills themselves)

The County Council do have to do ALL of these and more and, unfortunately, we have to do them with migrant victims as well as native English speakers – I am not going to go into the whole immigration debate here, dealing with that is outside of the County Council’s gift. However, the truth is even if, as a migrant, you are a reasonable English speaker, when you are in a situation where your child is threatened with care, or you are dealing with social workers, you are likely to come across unfamiliar language and you deserve to understand every single word that is being said to you.

So the next question is, in these circumstances, if the county Council doesn't fund it, who should pay? Councillor Lay says:

"If interpretation is required, this will be supplied by the county council at a cost to the recipient." 

In this case the recipient is the partner who has been beaten, the abused child, the mentally ill, or families of the mentally ill. Surely he cannot mean they should pay (but that is what he says). So, should the alleged perpetrator pay when they haven't been found guilty? Councillor Lay's thinking is dangerously flawed.

I would suggest that there are a number of reasons why this idea could have come forward. Either Councillor Lay still doesn't understand what the County Council does, or he lacks compassion, or he is being populist. My view is it is a combination of all three.

Now, if there was a motion to council to review the cost of translation services to see if we could cut costs, that would be worth looking at, but it is not what is being suggested. The perfect way of dealing with this would be through a scrutiny review, but unfortunately, UKIP helped get rid of the County's valuable scrutiny function.

I suspect that if Councillor Lay puts his ideas forward as a motion (the correct procedure) it would still be ruled out by the County Council's legal team on the basis that we have legal obligations to provide such services and therefore that the intent is not deliverable.

We have a by-election pending in Wisbech. I hope as many Wisbech people as possible can read this so they can see the sort of heartless, wrong-thinking UKIP Councillor has been elected.